|Our Terrace in Rome|
I sit on the terrace of my apartment in Rome. Alone and in silence. The mercurial traffic below scarcely heard, blotted by the distance between myself and their earth-boundedness. A squawky seagull lands on a chimney, then flaps away. Everyone should have a terrace. For reflective mornings companioned with coffee. For candled evenings sated with wine and the warmth of friends. It prompts a Whitman-esque urge to yawp over the roofs of Rome. Instead I nudge a salamander away from me with my toe and sit down to write. My table is wooden, weathered, well-used. And it was here on this terrace, here at this table, that I first found My People.
We sit under a still, starry sky consuming delicious pasta, delectable tiramisu. And, of course, there is wine. To my left sits Karen—my stalwart writing buddy—with her honesty and charisma and moments of maniacal laughter. Head of the table. Molder of conversation and expression, she brings such light to all she touches. Next to her Joe toasts her vivid retelling of a story (complete with a fist thumping on her chest) about another unruly student she, with cold precision, put in his place. Joe, coarse and direct and so entirely loveable, has laughed his way into my heart. Not that I resisted. Amidst his sarcasm and vulgar turn of phrase, I am often surprised (though I’ve since learned not to be) at his generosity and gentleness. I find I need a little more Joe in my life. Kyle, on my right, leans forward and refills my glass. He laughs raucously and several droplets of red wine dribble onto the table. No one notices. We are all too busy trying to breathe through our own laughter. This man who tends toward the awkwardly reclusive, with the wine and the aura of the night, has turned his traditional introspection to grand and repetitive proclamations of the brilliance of Fellini. Yet Kyle’s sincerity and his kindness toward those with whom he comes in contact is so engaging, so endearing. I smile again as more laughter erupts and more wine is poured.
This terrace table hosts more than simple acquaintances, more than mere students brought together by chance for a shared goal. These are My People. My inner artist has found her sanctuary. And it’s intoxicating.
I sit on US Airways Flight 719 somewhere above the Atlantic. Beside me is a large man of a few too many words who just ordered his second round of cranberry juice with a double shot of vodka. I put in my earphones and pull out my laptop. Now is an opportune time for reflection as opposed to forced conversation. It is a strange state of things to hover above the world, spanning the distance from one life to another. Leaving Rome behind and winging to Philadelphia, I am groggy and ludicrously tired. But my extreme contentment makes my fatigue an afterthought. And, while still over international waters and before the reality of life comes a’clattering, I want to lift a final glass. Here’s to you, Karen, Joe, and Kyle. My fellow MFA-ers, fellow writers, fellow Terrace Dwellers. May your pens be fearless and your lives be flavorful, and may our time together sustain you until our paths align again.